May 06, 2022
Nothing is more frustrating than running out of time in the studio, or losing sleep because sessions take too long. Sometimes it seems that producing music is just a slow process, but it needn’t be unnecessarily so. With a few improvements to your workflow, you can find yourself finishing more songs in less time.
Here are our top six productivity tips for a faster recording workflow.
First and foremost, organize everything, from presets to samples to project files. Instead of having samples strewn about in different folders on different hard drives, create one central samples folder, and organize it in a way that makes sense - perhaps by instrument.
Instead of saving projects to any old place, create a special projects folder so you know where all your projects are. Create plugin layouts in your DAW that make sense, save your favorites, and eliminate superfluous plugins you never use.
Color coding and organizing tracks in the same way every time can also save time both in tracking and mixing, and while you’re at it, come up with a file naming convention that will always make sense to you and use that every time.
Every DAW has a way to save track templates- everything from track layout to plugins and buss routing can be saved in a template. Any move you find yourself doing every time should be saved ahead of time. Instead of calling up a blank project and redoing those repeated tasks, call up your template. If you make different types of music, you can save different templates for each type – rock, acapella vocals, etc.
Next, be sure to save presets in your plugins and VSTi instruments. Especially if you find yourself recording song after song and making the same moves, you don’t have to recreate them all the time. If you mix the same vocalist a lot, for example, and you know they’ll always need the same EQ treatment, save that in a preset. You can always tweak it a bit if it needs changing.
For certain tasks, nothing wastes more time than the mouse. Switching between track and mixer view, copying and pasting, inserting tracks, turning on and off view elements, navigating to different points in the song, looping, playback, record start and stop – most DAW tasks that you do repeatedly can be done with the keyboard and it pays huge dividends to know your DAW’s shortcuts in and out. This means reading the manual, and that should be task number one when you first start using a new software package.
If you don’t remember them all, print up a cheat sheet and post it somewhere prominent in your mix area for reference. Make a habit of using them and they’ll become second nature.
Multitasking is the bane of productivity. First, set aside dedicated studio time rather than trying to fit short bursts of creativity in between work, family, and whatnot. Second, eliminate distractions like cell phones, internet, and social media.
Finally, try separating phases of production. Write songs completely before trying to produce, get tracks arranged and recorded before moving on to the mixing, and so on. One exception to this rule is that certain strategic work in tracking can make mixing quicker. This is part “mix as you go” and part get the recording right and don’t fix it in the mix. Thinking ahead to the mix is helpful here but try not to get distracted by mix details before the tracks are set – you can waste time mixing something that won’t be on the record.
So much time is wasted in the studio doing things that could have been done at home. If you’re a performer, prepare for tracking sessions by rehearsing until you’re good enough to play a song flawlessly on stage. If you’re getting ready for a mix, organize tracks and delete everything you won’t need ahead of time.
Similarly, you can plan your session ahead of time, set goals, use task lists, and make decisions like style and which plugins or instruments to go to first, all from home. Take good notes so when you get to the studio, no time is spent figuring out what you want to do.
Especially when it comes to creative work like writing or making production decisions, let yourself follow through on ideas to the end instead of questioning everything while you’re doing it. Self-critique is a healthy thing when applied at the right time, but during creative flow is not that time, because it halts the process and can make things take longer or never get finished at all.
Instead, get to a finished place, take a break or quit for the day, and come back later to critique. Again, you can print mixes or roughs to listen to outside of the studio to save time in studio – especially helpful if you’re paying for time. Ending a session on time and sending out material for feedback is also a great way to have a focused goal for the next session. Just make a checklist of all the notes you received and tick through each item one by one.
There are a million ways to make yourself faster in the studio, especially if you know your tools well, but these are our top 6 ways to get more efficient right now. May your next session be more productive than the last!
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